Cheetahs, Zoos, and the Bottleneck

Wild Cheetah | Kruger National Park, South Africa 2016

Have you ever heard a cheetah roar? Trick question! Cheetahs can't roar, they chirp! A cheetah chirp sounds a lot like the noises my cats make when they see a bird. It's a cute sound similar to a bird chirp, which is where it gets its name (scientists are so creative)! Cheetahs can also purr like cats, but they make a lot of other sounds too; they churr and stutter when hanging out with other cheetahs; they growl, moan, and hiss during conflicts; they gurgle when they're talking to bffs; they yowl when they're in danger. So why can't cheetahs roar? Well, big cats that CAN roar (lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars) all have specialized two-piece hyoid bones, whereas cheetahs only have one-piece hyoid bones. Pretty crazy!

Oh, and did you know that almost every single cheetah on the planet is related? This is due to something called a genetic bottleneck. When a species population drops dramatically it can be really difficult to repopulate with healthy individuals. With so few individuals left, the risk of inbreeding increases (increasing the risk of genetic disorders) and genetic diversity decreases, limiting the ability to adapt to things like environmental change or bounce back from things like disease. So what does this mean? Well, it means that it's super important to help animals before they become endangered. It means that endangered species REALLY need our help to provide them with genetically diverse mates. One huge way humans have helped wildlife is through zoo conservation programs.

While zoos aren't always the answer, they provide HUGE benefits to wildlife that animals otherwise couldn't provide. For example, AZA-accredited Zoos and Aquariums work together to develop breeding programs that match unrelated endangered breeding pairs, something that would unlikely happen in the wild. While most anyone who works in a zoo will tell you that in an ideal world, there would be no zoos, zoos are one of those things that we need now. We need zoos to educate the public about the importance of wildlife because, without public support, wildlife is doomed. We need zoos to work with animals so that we learn how to help them in the wild because, without healthy wildlife, wildlife is doomed. We need zoos to fund conservation programs, which they do A LOT of, because, unfortunately, without money, wildlife conservation is doomed. Yes, in an ideal world people would never destroy environments and wildlife conservation would have an endless supply of money to help with their initiatives, but our reality isn't quite there. Not yet at least (a girl can dream).  

Does this make you sad? Or are you motivated to help? Maybe both? (story of my life.) Well, if you want to help, reach out to your local zoo, they can always use extra hands. Too lazy? You can always donate to wildlife conservation charities. Want something for yourself? Well, when you shop from places like Kind & Simple, 10% of each Wildlife Conservation Product goes to the Wildlife Conservation NetworkWe love to help you help wildlife.

Environmentally Yours,

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